(WXOW) - Virtual schools and academies saw an influx of students over the past year due to the pandemic.
The Minnesota Virtual Academy’s enrollment grew by over 750 students from the 19/20 school year to the 20/21 school year. The tuition-free, online public program provides an alternative to brick and mortar schooling and their version of virtual education.
With more learners, teachers have been forced to find ways to continue providing that individualized attention for select groups, even if it's only for this year.
Arley Armstrong is a middle school special education teacher with the MVA. She, along with her neighbor and fellow special education teacher Melissa Glahn live in Holmen.
They use their close proximity to bounce ideas and concepts off each other and cater to their students. Both teachers said they've had to stay creative with bigger caseloads and depend on each other in generating new resources.
"They like variety," said Glahn. "If you stay with one thing for too long, sometimes they get bored with it, and I think switching it up and changing things around, and showing new features is helpful for them as well."
Glahn has been working with Landon Ortmeier over the past year.
“She helps me with science and stuff,” said Landon.
Landon’s mom, Sarah, has enjoyed having Landon in virtual schooling this year.
"It’s more one-on-one versus having 25-30 other students in the classroom,” said Sarah.
Ortmeier moved him from public school because she felt the school was better equipped for this type of scenario.
"From a technology perspective, it really caught Landon up, being able to submit stuff online through Dropbox or whatever," said Sarah. "Just to be able to get comfortable with doing everything online and understanding how to do an email."
Both Armstrong and Glahn have also had to adapt, working from home and turning their living space into a working space. Both teachers also have children that keep them busy during the day. However, this year, the feedback has been positive.
"A lot of students say they’ve been pleasantly surprised and pleased with the level of support they’ve been getting in the online setting,” said Armstrong.
Even as Landon has made strides, Sarah still plans to move him back to in-person learning next year.
“He just needs to go back to school for socialization,” said Sarah.
But this is something that teachers like Arley and Melissa still plan for, especially in this pandemic year.
"We work toward that goal so if they need more toward social skills or study skills or getting that routine down. That’s what I want to help with," said Glahn.